A modern human hand grasps a fossil metacarpus from a hominin ancestor who may have been able to craft tools. A new study suggests the adaptations enabling a precise and forceful grip developed 500,000 years earlier than previously theorized. (Tracy L. Kivell, Matthew M. Skinner)
Excerpt from latimes.com
By Geoffrey Mohan
Our ape-like ancestors may have stopped dragging their knuckles and started making tools a half million years earlier than previously thought, according to a new study.
The study, published online Thursday in the journal Science, suggests that the art of tool making may not be exclusive to the genus Homo, which led to modern Homo sapiens. At least one species in the dead-end genus Australopithecus appears to have enough of the hand characteristics that would have made tool crafting possible, the study found.
That would mean that the credit for tool use would now be shared between Homo habilis -- most often thought to be the progenitor of tool-making hominins -- and Australopithecus africanus, a species that wandered around southern Africa about 2-3 million years ago.
Since then, modern Homo sapiens has used a lot of his tool-making ability to type out arguments over which ancestor first flaked a stone into a sharp-edged tool. So it’s unlikely that one study will settle the matter...